Blog > Hensley Henson, Oxford House leader

Hensley Henson, Oxford House leader

Hensley Henson was a young clergyman when he was appointed the leader of Oxford House at Christmas in 1887.

He had been to the settlement to give a lecture on General Gordon and was fired by the vision of the then head, The Revd Jimmie Adderley, to establish a new order of celibate men in Oxford House, a sort of mini-monastery socially engaged in serving the local area.

Like many of his time, Henson saw service to deprived urban areas as an important part of the work of the church.

His short time at the settlement, just over a year, was an energetic one for a man who went on to fill a number of prominent church posts and was regarded as something of a controversialist.

One of eight children, he came from a relatively humble background, and was educated at Oxford University where he became a fellow of All Souls College.

He was appointed to Oxford House within a month of his being ordained deacon.

The settlement then had four working men’s clubs, a choir, a lecture hall, a chapel, and rooms for residence. Henson added a library.

He also set up the Webbe Institute in Hare Street where boys aged between 16 and 18 had a gymnasium, a canteen, and dormitories for 50 boys. For more on this, see The Webbe Boys’ Club.

Henson’s time in Bethnal Green was short. He was offered, and accepted the parish of St Margaret’s, Barking and went on to serve with distinction many prominent postings, including Canon at Westminster Abbey, Dean of Durham Cathedral, Bishop of Hereford and finally Bishop of Durham.

He is the subject of two biographies by Owen Chadwick and, more recently, by John S. Peart-Binns.

Kevin Scully, OH Trustee

Picture: Henson is on the front row on the left hand side, accompanied by the other five first heads of Oxford House. Cameron, Averil, Archer, Ian W. “Keble the Past and Present” Third Millennium, London 2008.

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