Dean Vaughan

Taken from ‘An Historical Guide to Doncaster Parish Church’ – by Rev. E. A. Armstrong.

Dr Vaughan was such an outstanding character and left his impress on the town and neighbourhood to such an extent that a biographical note will not be out of place, when few survive who knew him personally. Those who recall his ministry in Doncaster speak with affection of his angelic personality and his wonderful charm of manner. From what we can learn he was one of those other-worldly characters whose saintliness, far from exhausting itself in speculative mysticism, made him a tremendous power in this work-a-day world.

After fifteen years as headmaster of Harrow, Dean Vaughan came to Doncaster. Here he exercised his ability for teaching in a novel way by inviting young candidates for Orders to read with him. In the summer of 1861 he preached before the University of Cambridge on ‘The Choice of Professions,’ and in the course of his sermon said:

  • “Where is the experienced Pastor who would not gladly take under his general direction from time to time three or four candidates for Holy Orders. Great joy would it carry to the heart of one parochial clergyman – for him I can answer – to receive applications of such a nature, to find that there were men of blameless character, of steady purpose, of open mind, and of true devotion who were willing to take up their abode in his parish before ordination, to see what he could show them, and to render him such service in his schools and amongst his poor as Church Order may permit and mutual convenience arrange.”

The response was immediate and continuous; at Doncaster, at the Temple and at Llandaff these ordination candidates, afterwards to be known as ‘Vaughan’s Doves’ studied at the feet of the saintly scholar. Those who wish to know more of this wonderful work should turn to the report of the reunion of Vaughan’s men recorded in the Doncaster, Nottingham, and Lincoln Gazette of August 27th, 1869. Of 123 men very few were absent. The Mayor attended the banquet before the Service, at which the Town Council and a great number of townspeople were present. The bells were rung for an hour beforehand. Dr. Vaughan’s sermon was a wonderful presentation of the joys and sorrows of the parson’s life.

His work was many-sided. A sound classical scholar, he was also a living concordance to the Bible. He printed many of his sermons and Bible studies, and devoted the proceeds to the upkeep of schools and other institutions. He generally preached twice on Sundays and gave an address at one Evensong in the Forman Chapel. During Advent he preached special midday courses, some in the Corn Exchange. He may be said to have resuscitated the Grammar School, which he visited daily. For the boys he had a great affection. The following extract from his speech at the annual prize distribution in 1869 will give some idea of his influence on the school. He said:

  • “He scarcely supposed there was one person in Doncaster who loved the Grammar School more than he did. . . . They were now separating for the holidays. In parting let him say how much he would miss them when they were gone. He would miss them in Church. He could hardly tell them how blank and dreary was the appearance of the vacant places where he usually saw them attentive and devout worshipers.”

He spoke of the pleasure with which, on a chance visit, he had listened in the cloisters below to the chanting of the Evening Psalms at the close of the day’s school, and had afterwards learned from the headmaster that not only was the wish for that service expressed by themselves, but also but also they had consented to beginning school earlier on purpose that they might enjoy the service without shortening the time of their ordinary lessons.

He built the Parish Church Schools largely at his own expense, created St. Andrew’s Church, Marshgate, and maintained services at Duke Street Chapel and at the Ragged School. To him is largely due the Doncaster Infirmary, soon to be replaced by more adequate buildings, in which we hope the Dean will be commemorated. During an epidemic of cholera he was unwearied in his ministrations, and throughout his Doncaster ministry, in spite of frequent intervals of what he called “unwellness”, he might be seen in the afternoon, starting out, stick in hand, to visit the sick and needy.

His strength of mind was shown when, having discovered what the Races meant to the town, he refused, in defiance of protest and threats, to allow the custom of ringing the bells for the event to be continued.

Chaucer’s description of the Good Parson might have been written of Dr. Vaughan:

  • Rich he was of holy thought and work, he was also a learned man, a clerk. That Christ’s gospel truly would preach. His parishioners devoutly would he teach. Benign he was and wonder diligent, and in adversity full patient. A better priest I trow that nowhere none is, he waited for no pomp and reverence, nor made him a spiced conscience. But Christ’s lore and his Apostles twelve, he taught, but first he followed it himself.

Dr. Vaughan’s humility was marked by his refusal of the Bishoprics which were offered to him. When the see of Canterbury fell vacant he was approached as to whether, if offered, he would accept it, but nolo episcopari (I do not want to be Bishop) was his motto. He forbade any biography of himself to be written. The words on his tombstone are those of his own choice:

  • “Not that we loved God, but that He loved us.”

His epitaph reads:

  • Charles John Vaughan, D.D., Dean of Llandaff, 1879 – 1897. Honoured in his generation as Scholar, Master, Preacher, Councillor: A man greatly beloved: Ambitious to be quiet. Born August 6th, 1816, died October 15th, 1897.

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