The History of Simeon's Trustees
Much has been written about the life, conversion and ministry of Charles Simeon (1759-1836), Vicar of Holy Trinity Cambridge for 54 years from 1782 until his death. Simeon, a contemporary of John Wesley, William Wilberforce and a founder member of the Church Mission Society, was described by John Stott as ‘one of the greatest and most persuasive preachers the Church of England has ever known’. Perhaps less has been written about his patronage trust which continues to this day.
Simeon and a number of his contemporaries were concerned to ensure gospel ministry flourished in the Church of England. Partly as a result of Simeon’s ministry and influence in Cambridge and beyond, a considerable number of men were ordained but they then found it difficult to find livings. Many of the bishops and private patrons would not appoint them because of their emphasis on personal faith.
Until 1898 advowsons (the right to present a vicar to a parish) were bought and sold like other ‘property’. John Thornton of Clapham, purchased a number of advowsons including that of St Mary Woolnoth in the City of London to which he presented John Newton as vicar. Thornton set up a trust for his livings, one of which was St Peter’s Colchester, and asked Simeon to be one of the three trustees. Simeon’s first experience of appointing to a living as a Trustee was in 1813; in a letter to Mrs Wilberforce written the following year he implies it is not an easy task! In 1824 the ‘Thornton Trust’ was dissolved and the advowsons transferred to Simeon’s Trustees.
Edward Simeon, Charles’s third brother and a Director of the Bank of England, died in 1812 leaving Charles a legacy of £15,000. Thus financially secure, Charles was in a position to purchase advowsons. He was further helped in this by financial gifts from many others.
Some of the early purchases Simeon made include St Mary’s, Cheltenham and St Giles, Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1817 and St Peter’s, Ruddington (1822). Other early acquisitions include All Saints, Sudbury (1827), Holy Trinity, Ripon (1828), St Giles, Northampton (1833) and just months before his death, Simeon purchased Beverley Minster, outbidding the Duke of Northumberland. A number of advowsons were gifted or bequeathed to Simeon including Drypool given in 1823 by William Wilberforce.
Simeon was concerned to establish ‘spheres of influence’ and to this end he and those who followed were strategic about the advowsons acquired. These included the advowsons of churches in the new industrial centres such as Bradford (purchased by the Trustees in 1854) and Sheffield (purchased in 1882, patronage is shared with the Burgess Trust) as well as in places such as Bath and Cheltenham.
Simeon and his trustees put the needs of the parish foremost when making decisions about who to appoint to livings. Unlike many other patrons of the time their motivation was spiritual, seeking to appoint men who were not only able but the most appropriate for the parish, the ‘sphere of influence’.
In 1833 Simeon presented his solemn charge to his Trustees. This continues to underpin the work of the Trustees though it has been re-interpreted somewhat as now both women and men are appointed to Simeon livings. It is read each time a Trustee is appointed.
On 28 January 1836 Simeon’s Trust Deed was signed, listing 21 advowsons. The Trustees in 1836 were Charles Simeon, the Ven Hodgson, the Revd W Carus Wilson and the Revd William Carus. Later that year, Simeon appointed the Revd John Venn as a Trustee.
Simeon died on 13 November 1836 and he is remembered by the Church of England on 13 November.
The current Simeon’s Trustees are responsible for the patronage (or a share of the patronage) in over 160 livings in most dioceses throughout England. They are guided in their work by current Church of England legislation including the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986 and, of course, Simeon’s Charge.
Simeon's Trustees is a Company Limited by Guarantee Registered in England in 1960 No 672240 and since 2006 has been registered (No 1115214) with the Charity Commission.
Click here to view the on-line exhibition on Simeon produced by King's College Cambridge
Ridley Hall, Cambridge has a large collection of Charles Simeon's papers including his annotated Bible and his Book of Psalms as well as many letters, sermons and other documents. For more information click here, Currently one of our Trustees, Catherine Wright, is based at Ridley and would be happy to show you the collection. Contact Ann Brown via the link at the top of the page if you wish to visit.
Simeon’s Charge to his Trustees
This underpins the work of the Trustees, though it has been re-interpreted somewhat as now both women and men are appointed to Simeon livings.
Collect for 13 November
This is the date on which the life of Charles Simeon is celebrated in the Anglican Calendar. The collect is:
FURTHER READING ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF CHARLES SIMEON
- William Carus (Ed). Memoirs of the Rev Charles Simeon with a selection from his writings and correspondence (Reproduction published by Nabu Press, 2014). Also available for download from Google Books.
- Derek Prime. Charles Simeon: an ordinary pastor of extraordinary significance (Day One, 2011)
- Hugh Evan Hopkins. Charles Simeon of Cambridge (Hodder, 1977)(Now published by Wipf & Stock, USA)
- H C G Moule. Charles Simeon (Methuen, 1892)(now published by Christian Focus Publications, Scotland)
- Charles Simeon. Horae Homileticae. (21 volumes, 1832-1833) (Available for download from Google Books and from Amazon in a Kindle edition published byhttp://www.DelmarvaPublications.com)
- Rt Revd Dr Graham Kings Text of a sermon given at King's College Chapel, Cambridge on Sunday 15th November can be found here.
- J E M Cameron (Ed.) Charles Simeon of Cambridge: Silhouettes and Skeletons (Didasko Publishing in collaboration with Simeon’s Trustees, 2013)
- A W Brown. Charles Simeon Conversation Parties (Hamilton Adams & Co, 1863)(now published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012)
- Andrew Atherstone. Charles Simeon on The Excellency of the Liturgy (Joint Liturgical Studies. Alcuin Club and The Group for the Renewal of Worship, Hymns Ancient & Modern, 2011)