Biographies of Fr Patten :: 1970 (reprinted 2008), 1983, 2004, 2006

After Fr Patten died in 1958 tributes appeared in journals and newspapers in this country and in many parts of the world and it was natural that before long someone would attempt a biography. We know from our archives that in 1961 Fr Smith of St Salvador, Edinburgh, advertised for material about Fr Patten with a view to writing one, but nothing came of this. If he started it, the manuscript has not survived, and nothing was published.

first edition 1970Fr Colin Stephenson, Fr Patten's successor as Master of the Guardians and Administrator, retired as Administrator in 1968 and appealed for information and reminiscences to help him write the book that was finally published in 1970, entitled Walsingham Way. As the dust-jacket described, it was "the first full-length book about the Shrine, and about Hope Patten. It is a story told with candour and a good deal of humour by the one man ideally qualified to tell it".

second edition 2008 Although eagerly awaited and a gripping read, it was not universally applauded, and was criticised by some as being in places flippant and inaccurate. There is some truth in these criticisms, but one must remember that Fr Colin never claimed to write an authoritative historical record. In his piece written for the Walsingham Review he said that he intended to make it a simple account of what was [then] known of the foundation and history of the Shrine, and with it came what he described as "more or less a biography of Alfred Hope Patten". He had known Walsingham and Fr Patten since 1935 and was best placed at the time to record what was known so far. It was written in his own entertaining style, as he talked, with quantities of humorous anecdotes and asides thrown in: and his chief research material for the biography was in truth his own reminiscences and those of so many people still living who had known Fr Patten even longer than he had.Merrily on High second edition 2008

Fr Gordon Reid (now Rector of St Clement's, Philadelphia), Fr Colin's executor, allowed a second edition to be published in 2008, and has himself written a new Preface to it which seeks to place the book in its own historical perspective, after nearly forty years of momentous changes in Walsingham, the Church of England and beyond. (In 1972 Fr Colin published his own autobiography, Merrily on High, which was also reprinted alongside this in 2008 with another new bridging Preface by Fr Gordon.)

Both Fr Colin and Fr Gordon referred to Fr Patten by his baptismal name of 'Hope' and knew well that his was not a hyphenated surname, so the use of the 'Hope-Patten' throughout both of Fr Gordon's new Prefaces can probably be blamed on editing gremlins.

A review of both books appears in the Assumptiontide 2009 edition of the Walsingham Review, written by Ruth Ward, a Guardian since 2003. click here to read a copy of it.

A short study, assessing Fr Patten's priestly life and achievements, was published in 1983 in the 'Oxford Prophets' series of booklets marking the 150th anniversary year of the Oxford Movement. The series, published by the Church Union and edited by Fr Jeremy Haselock, charted the lives of the founders of the Movement, and of many later leaders and outstanding personalities, truly prophets in their day. Fr Patten's biography, number five in the series, was written by Fr John Barnes, at the time still vicar of Walsingham, as he was from 1977 to 1989. The same text was reissued at least twice some years later, adding the collect for Fr Patten from the Norwich Diocesan Calendar, but omitting the photograph of him at the altar that had appeared in the Oxford Prophets original.

In 2001 the late Michael Farrer lectured to the Anglo-Catholic History Society on Fr Hope Patten's Place in the Catholic Revival: this paper was later reproduced by the Society.

Fr Patten's entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) was written by Fr Peter Cobb. This can only be viewed by subscription to the DNB website, but many local libraries subscribe, and entries can be viewed there. (Oxford DNB website)

Michael Yelton's biography of Fr Patten 2006This definitive biography of Fr Patten appeared in 2006. This is a full-length scholarly study by Michael Yelton. In his Anglican Papalism (2005) he had written about Fr Patten and his restoration of the Walsingham Shrine and the need for a full biography. The next year he wrote and published one, entitled Alfred Hope Patten and the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, An illustrated biography. He had unrestricted access to the Shrine archives and to much other previously unseen and unpublished material, and did extensive research elsewhere. (In 2007 he published Alfred Hope Patten: his life and times in pictures, which contained the overflow of photographs from the biography.) At this distance in time, and with comprehensive resources, Yelton was able to assess all aspects of Fr Patten's life, including in several chapters exploring for the first time his family origins, his early life and some of the myths that he liked to create around himself.


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