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DAVENPORT, JOHN METCALF, Church of England clergyman and writer; b. 6 Oct. 1842 in London, England, eldest son of John Thistlewood Davenport; d. unmarried 10 March 1913 in Parkstone (Poole), England.

John M. Davenport was clerking for his father, a prominent commercial chemist, when his reading of the Tractarians awakened a vocation to the priesthood. At the age of 24 he entered Exeter College, Oxford, from which he graduated in 1871, the year he became a deacon. Ordained a priest in 1872, he spent his early ministry as curate first in Wolverhampton and then in an uncle’s London parish. He also began a lifelong association with the Society of St John the Evangelist, an order oriented towards mission work. It was Richard Meux Benson, its founder, who recommended Davenport when Bishop John Medley* of Fredericton sought a priest for a new Anglo-Catholic congregation in New Brunswick. In 1881 Davenport visited the province briefly to survey the scene. He arrived permanently in 1882, in time to conduct the inaugural services at the Mission Chapel in Portland (Saint John).

In an Anglican community as self-consciously evangelical as 19th-century Saint John [see John William Dering Gray*], where small alterations in ministerial vesture or church ornament might provoke cries of popery, the prospect of a congregation formed for the professed purpose of “advanced” ritual was likely to arouse alarm. That Sarah Elizabeth Hazen, who funded the project, and its principal undertakers – Isaac Allen Jack*, Henry William Frith, and George Arthur Schofield – were members of St Paul’s (Valley), the city parish with the most elaborate services already, added a flavour of personal betrayal to the transaction. But the aspect of the controversy which came to predominate was the collateral issue of the Mission Chapel’s status in canon law. Erected within the bounds of St Paul’s and against the opposition of its rector, and indeed only 600 yards from his parish church, the chapel was illegal. Medley’s willingness to trivialize and disregard this impropriety became the most controversial episode of his long episcopate. Not until 1890 was the chapel’s status regularized, through a special act of the provincial legislature incorporating the trustees of the Mission Church of St John Baptist.

Most of the bitterness attending formation of the Mission Chapel arose prior to Davenport’s arrival in Saint John, and his own circumspect conduct eventually brought his flock a considerable measure of acceptance in both the community and the diocese. Though it is unclear how successful he was in attracting the working poor to his daily and weekly services, the congregation was a crowded one during his tenure. A handsome man, he paid careful attention to ritual, and his efforts were enhanced by the music of Thomas Morley, the city’s outstanding organist from 1887 to 1891, and by the singing of a surpliced choir of boys and men. Personal wealth enabled him to bring choristers from England, open the Davenport School for moulding boys into “cultured Christian gentlemen,” and import two sisters of the Community of the Holy Name. Just as Bishop Medley’s acceptance in Fredericton had been smoothed by his participation in the community chorale, so Davenport’s “beautiful” voice became prominent in the Saint John Oratorio Society.

Davenport’s Catholicism extended beyond ceremonial. As a member of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, he fasted prior to communion, offered adoration to the consecrated host, and, at least in his subsequent Toronto career, practised reservation of the sacrament. His views on prayer for the dead can be inferred from the fact that the headmaster of the Davenport School preached approvingly on the subject. To most Anglicans these notions were repellent, and in 1885 Davenport was forced to deny publicly that he planned to “go over to Rome.” Yet it is a measure of his strategic sense, and of his self-confidence as an Anglo-Catholic, that both of the great controversies of his ministry were with Roman Catholics rather than evangelical Anglicans. In 1885 he engaged a Roman priest in a newspaper dispute over the notion of papal infallibility, and between 1887 and 1889 he carried on a learned debate in the press with Saint John lawyer Richard Francis Quigley over “the state of utter corruption into which the cultus of the Blessed Virgin has fallen in the Roman Church.” In both forums, and in the books that followed, Davenport emphasized the time-honoured Tractarian position that these key Roman distinctives had been “utterly unknown” to the primitive church.

Frequent pulpit exchanges made Davenport well known within the Catholic wing of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. When his tenure at the Mission Church ended, in 1891, he was called to the rectorship at St Clement’s, Philadelphia. This church had just ended its connection with the Society of St John the Evangelist in circumstances of some ill-feeling, and it was perhaps thought that the appointment of an associate of the order such as Davenport would ease the transition. He remained only two years, returning to Saint John in 1893, where he continued until appointed vicar of the Toronto parish of St Thomas in 1900. Here his characteristic attention to ornament and detail in an ambitious ritualist parish somewhat in decline made his four-year tenure a distinct success. Failing health forced him to spend his final Toronto years in extra-parochial work. In 1909 Davenport returned to England, where he served until 1912 as vicar of St Clement’s, Bournemouth.

D. G. Bell

There is a small but valuable Mission Church coll. among the records of the Anglican diocese of Fredericton at PANB (MC 223, S5-E); most of the key documents are printed or abstracted in History of the Mission Church of SJohn Baptist, Saint John, N.B., 1882–1932 (Saint John, 1932).

John Metcalf Davenport’s publications include Christians sealed by God for sacrifice: a sermon, preached at the anniversary service of the Diocesan Church Society in Fredericton cathedral, on Thursday, July 4th, 1889 (Saint John, 1889); A clerical firebrand ([Saint John, 1894]; copy in N.B. Museum, Tilley family papers, F 147-7); Messiah (God incarnate) not Messiah’s mother the “bruiser of the serpents head” . . . with a concise exposure of Mr. R. F. Quigley’s errors and controversial tactics . . . (Saint John, 1891); and Papal infallibility: “Catholic’s” replies to “Cleophas”, refuting the Vatican dogma . . . (Saint John, 1885).

N.B. Museum, W. F. Ganong coll., Carman papers, F 209-8 (J. M. Carman to William Carman, 8 Dec. 1881); I. A. Jack scrapbook (C36); Jarvis family papers, box 27, W. M. Jarvis, memoir of his wife, 17 Feb. 1866; Tilley family papers. Daily Telegraph (Saint John), 25 Jan. 1882, continued as Daily Telegraph and the Sun, 14 March 1913. Progress (Saint John), 11 July, 14 Nov. 1891; 17 June 1893; 14 Nov. 1894. Saint John Globe, 5 Dec. 1881; 27, 30 Jan. 1882; 4 Feb. 1884; 16 May 1885; 15 Nov. 1887; 13 March 1913. Times (London), 12 March 1913. Alumni oxonienses; the members of the University of Oxford, 1715–1886 . . . , comp. Joseph Foster (4v., Oxford and London, 1888). Crockford’s clerical directory . . . (London), 1913. G. E. DeMille, The Catholic movement in the American Episcopal Church (Philadelphia, 1941). W. C. Gaynor, Papal infallibility: letters of “Cleophas” in defence of the Vatican dogma (Saint John, 1885). Household of God: a parish history of StThomas’s Church, Toronto, ed. D. A. Kent et al. (Toronto, 1993). [W. M. Jarvis?], The parish of Saint Paul and the Mission Chapel (Saint John, [1882?]). W. Q. Ketchum, The life and work of the Most Reverend John Medley, d.d., first bishop of Fredericton and metropolitan of Canada (Saint John, 1893). M. Lilly, Story of StClement’s Church, Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1964). T. R. Millman and A. R. Kelley, Atlantic Canada to 1900; a history of the Anglican Church (Toronto, 1983). Mission Chapel ([Fredericton, 1881]). The Mission Chapel: a reply ([Saint John, 1882]). R. F. Quigley, Ipse, ipsa: ipse, ipsa, ipsum: which? . . . (New York and Cincinnati, 1890).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

D. G. Bell, “DAVENPORT, JOHN METCALF,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 30, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/davenport_john_metcalf_14E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/davenport_john_metcalf_14E.html
Author of Article: D. G. Bell
Title of Article: DAVENPORT, JOHN METCALF
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1998
Year of revision: 1998
Access Date: July 30, 2014