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Rev. Canon Chas James Thompson is another of our former presidents whom we have an obituary for. This is from volume XLII of the Transactions for 1909
Reverend Canon Thompson, DD by Thomas Hasted Heath (1876–1907) used with permission from Mansion House, Cardiff
Canon Chas. James Thompson, D.D. Born 13th July, 1836. Died 7th March, 1909.
Canon Thompson was born at East Rudham, Norfolk. He entered at King's College, London, in 1860, afterwards proceeding to Hertford College, Oxford. In 1871 he obtained his B.A. Degree, with a Second Class in Lit. Hum., and proceeded to the Degree of D.D. in 1893. His distinguished career as Diocesan Inspector of Schools, and as Vicar of St. John's, Cardiff, from 1875 to 1901, has already been fully noticed elsewhere, and in any case this is not the occasion for a worthy appreciation of that aspect of his life's work.
The successful restoration of St. John's Church and Tower, which was commenced in 1885, from plans for which Mr. John Prichard, the then Diocesan Architect, was primarily responsible, was largely inspired by Canon Thompson's sound ecclesiological knowledge, and keen and correct judgment. The writer well remembers Canon Thompson's delight upon the discovery of the door leading up to the Rood-loft, which had long been hidden under a thick casing of plaster.
He was an old member of the Alpine Club, and one of the earliest climbers of the Matterhorn. His lantern lectures to the Society upon his Alpine adventures were very much appreciated by the members.
He joined the Society in 1892, became a member of the Committee in 1893, President of the Archaeological Section in 1895, and President of the Society in 1896. He remained a Vice-President until his departure from Cardiff for London in 1901. During this period he regularly attended the meetings of the Society, and took a keen interest in its proceedings.
Rev. Canon Chas James Thompson from Society Archives
Although not detailed, this certainly gives a flavour of the man, but as you search into our archives and especially the newspaper archives there is an immense level of detail on someone who was clearly very influential and respected in Cardiff as can be seen in these excerpts from the Transactions volume XXVI
Upon the proposal of the President (Mr. E. Seward) the Committee decided to hold a Conversazione during the Session 1893-4, and it took place upon Friday, 1st December, 1893, at the Town Hall. The use of the Assembly Rooms, Council Chamber, and Nisi Prius Court was kindly granted by the Right Worshipful the Mayor — W. J. Trounce, Esq. The principal items in the evening's programme were :— An Alpine Sketch, entitled: " A Day on the Jungfrau," by the Rev. Canon Thompson, D.D. (with lantern views)....
REPORT OF COMMITTEE FOR 1893-4. The past year has been marked by an important departure in the formation of an Archaeological Section of the Society, somewhat on the lines of the previously existing Biological and Geological Section. Of the new section, the Rev. Canon Thompson has accepted the Presidency, and Mr Edwin Seward (under whose auspices as President of the Society the section was formed) the Hon. Secretaryship; and a membership of 55 has already been attained.
South Wales Daily News 23rd June 1893
From Newspaper records we can see that he was part of the organizing committee (along with Dr C. T. Vachell & Mr H. Seward, Mr. Henry Heywood) of the British Association visit in 1892, and in the same year he was appealing for a resolution in the "disastrous strike in the building trade" which had lasted for "For four long months", and for help for the victims and families of the Tondu Colliery Explosion of the same year "in the course of his sermon, which was based on the 4th verse of the 3rd chapter 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians, "Our sufficiency is of God," delivered a powerful appeal for help on behalf of the sufferers in connection with the catastrophe" in 1893 he was advocating for Sunday opening of culturally valuable place as shown in this report
Sunday opening support, South Wales Echo 13th May 1893
However this did not meet with vigorous approval from all sides and he was reportedly involved in some lively debates such as this from Evening Express 10th October 1893
Last Night's Meeting at Cardiff Proves Stormy and Causes Some Scenes. The agitation set on foot in Cardiff a shore time ago advocating the Sunday opening of museums, picture galleries, reading rooms, parks, gardens, open spaces, and all such institutions as are under public control in the borough, was partly brought to a head on Monday night, when the first public meeting called by the committee of the Cardiff Sunday Society to advocate this movement was held in the Crown Court of the Town-hall. The room was crowded, those in favour of the object for which the meeting had been convened being present in strong force; while there was also a strong element of dissent as was shown by the opposition expressed during the speeches. Canon Thompson (president of the society) occupied the chair.
In 1895 he gave a lecture to the Cardiff Naturalists' Society which I think all of our current members would agree with - as reported in the South Wales Daily News of 25th October 1895
The Rev.Canon Thompson delivered a most interesting lecture. illustrated by limelight views, on "The Educational Value of Holiday Travel."
He said that as a naturalists' society, their first and chief work lay in the field of natural science but they believed in the unity and universality of knowledge, and so had widened its scope to the inclusion of literature and art. They wanted to quicken the spirit of intellectual and scientific inquiry, to kindle an enthusiasm for all that ennobled life and lifted man above the sordid commonplaces of his daily experiences. They wanted to bring him into contact with the great thoughts both of the present and the past.
It seems he was well liked as reported in the Evening Express 26th March 1895
A Bronze Bust Presented By Parishioners To Vicar Thompson. There was an interesting gathering at the Vicarage, Charles Street, Cardiff, on Monday afternoon, the occasion being the unveiling of a bust of the Rev. Canon Thompson, D.D., the vicar of Cardiff, and the presentation of it to the worthy vicar. The bust has been modelled in bronze from a plaster cast executed by Mr. W. Goscombe John, and is a remarkably striking likeness of the worthy vicar. The subscriptions were received from all classes of the community.
As you would expect from a man of faith he was very concerned with the moral well being of those around him as in 1896 there are some wonderful cartoons regarding his activities with the Vigilance Association
Evening Express 11th April 1896
Evening Express 21st April 1896
Reports of his activities both in the Society and in general and religious life continue until he left Cardiff in 1901 to take the post of preacher to the Hon. Society of Gray's Inn. Even then, and especially from the huge number of entries in local papers detailing his illness even though he lived far away in Worthing he was clearly well respected and remembered
Evening Express 8th March 1909 Canon Thompson Dead
Page Update 12-Aug-2018
At the event when we hosted the Insole Court Tree Walk on Saturday on the 9th of June 2018, I was approached by one of the Insole Court research group about a possible picture of one of our former presidents. On finding that book "Contemporary Portraits Men and Women of South Wales and Monmouthshire, Western Mail Limited 1896" I found that it contained a number of portraits of our former presidents.
Reverend Canon Chas James Thompson - from Contemporary Portraits Men and Women of South Wales and Monmouthshire, Western Mail Limited 1896
Back to the 150th Anniversary index
Before this... Robert William Atkinson, B.Sc. (Lond.), F.I.C., F.C.S. 22nd and 54th President
Next up... Robert Drane (1833-1914) Founder and 24th President
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